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Drakes Traders

Anyone who has lived here for 25 years will know Drakes Traders and will know how they started humbly by selling tiles out of a spare room, catering to a niche in the BVI market.

Many things may have changed, but many things haven’t, and Drakes is going stronger than ever now in their own, proud building in Skelton Park at Fish Bay.

Christian Esser is the managing director at Drakes—he is on the shop floor and he is hands on. As we tour the 10,000 square-foot showroom, I am reminded of housing emporiums I have seen in the States and Europe. “We aren’t about to start doing hotdogs and breakfasts for everyone,” laughs Christian who always seems to be in a good mood. “My family is originally from Germany, and we love this island, so our tastes are from Europe as well as the States and frankly from anywhere in the world that we might see a great product for the market in the BVI.” That market is a key part in Drakes’ business.

Having inventory is crucial and having choice caters to the 20,000 square feet of warehouse to which one day Christian says they will probably have to expand. “We cater to residential and commercial buyers, and I would say that every second home will purchase from our store, from windows to tiles, kitchens to doors. We like to give people a vast choice. On the majority, living is outdoors, where possible, and kitchens are basically clean and spacious and inside.” In asking Christian if trends have changed, he says almost sadly, “Well, there was a time when everyone wanted ventilated windows that simply slided shut, but now everything needs locking, securing and bolting down, and that isn’t necessarily hurricanes; it’s a sign of the society. We hope not to evolve further on that element, but security is important as is longevity.” Drakes carries warranties on all their products as the main dealer and are a member of Ace buying group, where they pass competitive prices to the floor.

“Residential clients will always struggle with the price of products. We employ 12 people, and all are trained to advise their best. Sometimes the cost of labour might seem costly, compared to the cost of materials, but more and more people love doing it themselves.”

To keep everything carefully planned, Drakes have computerized kitchen setups, where ideas can be seen on an animated programme down to architectural drawings or site-visit specs. “It is never going to change that the kitchen is the hub of the home,” says Christian with a smile. “It’s one of the most important purchases a homemaker makes.” And I tend to agree. Looking around the showroom, I am already hungry. I also notice a lot of eco-friendly appliances and products.

An example of what Drakes can do.

Christian cites two major changes in the last year, the recession having more and more people improving their existing properties instead of upgrading to new homes, and more interest in green products. “Green is big business, but it’s hard to say whether the industry will make it stick, and that’s not by choice as I’m all for it,” he says. “But it is the consumer that dictates it. It’s surprising; you can have someone knickknack with green products, but when it comes to something like a door, they want mahogany or teak regardless of any issues—recycled or not, they want it.” So Drakes tries to cover all bases and listens well to their customers' needs, having both an inexpensive range and higher end. What they are looking for is what they hope to have. “At the end of the day,” says Christian, “we are only an island and 25,000-something strong. We could not expect to dictate trends or even claim to have set them, but our business has always been the same: we look for interesting niches and trends by listening, and we source and buy them so that our customers may have them right here on island. We like being there for them; without their input, we wouldn’t have any trends at all.”


I couldn’t agree more. As I was leaving, everyone—not just Christian—was smiling and loving what they were doing. Some customers were hanging around the tile section and others checking out doors, smiling, too, and no doubt wondering how their new, smaller purchase would transfer into their major one.

Drakes Traders are based at Skelton Park at Fish Bay. They’re open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1.30 p.m.

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